2018-01-25 / Front Page

Internet tower plan draws neighbor’s ire

By Amy Hubbell
Of The Enterprise staff

A business owner seeking to expand internet and wireless communications to across the county is being opposed in one township.

But if history repeats itself, it won’t be the last time a tower is challenged.

Tim Maylone of Cherry Capital Connection (CCC) has been granted a special use permit to place a 128-foot communications tower on property just south of the Leland/Centerville Township line on S. French Road.

It is the first of what Maylone hopes will be many new communications towers he erects in the county.

Adjacent property owner Dan Matthies has asked to Zoning Board of Appeals to reverse the decision.

Repeated calls made to Matthies for this story were not answered. However, according to minutes for the planners’ Dec. 11 meeting, Matthies said he feels the “whole county needs to be wary of these towers — if they are going to be proliferating all over the county.”

Matthies and his wife, Lucy, own Chateau Fontaine Winery on the adjacent property.

“(The) winery is one of the most beautiful properties in the county, with an unbelievable view,” the minutes state. “It’s not right to build all these things, towers and such, that ruin these views.”

CCC has had a presence in the county for the past 10 years and provides internet and wireless service to about 200 customers. In November, Maylone announced plans to expand internet and wireless communication to areas of the county not served currently. He and other internet/wireless providers were encouraged by the Leelanau Internet Future’s Team (LIFT) and its “technology” committee, which approached them to talk about improving internet and wireless communication options in the county.

“As a committee, we want to increase hi-speed capabilities to serve county residents who can’t do homework, access information or market their products because of internet limitations,” said District 4 county commission Patricia Soutas-Little, LIFT chairman. “It’s a very complicated issue, but something we can do if we all work together.”

Maylone told Centerville planners last month that he hopes to build approximately three 128-foot towers per township with an unknown number of 20-foot and 60-foot towers to serve “micro-neighborhoods” based on topography and demand.

Each of the county’s 11 townships and three villages has its own zoning regulations developed in the late 1990s as a growing number of cell towers were being sited in Leelanau County.

There were legal challenges and claims that at least one tower negatively impacted migratory birds. But 20 years later, that’s easily forgotten as landlines have become a thing of the past.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2004 more than 90 percent of U.S. households had landline phone — now the number is less than 50 percent.

The ordinances vary greatly from township to township. However, collocation — placing equipment on existing towers instead of adding more — is favored in most.

CCC serves current customers on leased space on county towers at the government cent and on Pit Road in Leland Township. In addition, CCC has three towers in the Gill’s Pier area and others near Leland.

However, the company’s lease for space on county towers expired last summer. CCC’s previous monthly charge of $200 was increased to $3,000, leading Maylone to seek alternative solutions.

He was among several vendors who met Friday with township zoning administrators to discuss the permitting process.

“Nobody wants a tower in their backyard,” Soutas-Little said. “We need to be mindful of the existing tower sites and when possible pick sites that are remote and not as impactful.”

LIFT plans to release a report of their findings next month.

Meanwhile, Centerville Township’s ZBA will gather at 2:30 p.m. Friday at the Solon Township hall to consider a request to reverse approval of CCC’s permit.

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